By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA (Reuters) – Slovenia’s Foreign Minister, Karl Erjavec, said on Friday that he had offered to resign over a scandal involving a leaked tape that led to a breakdown in the country’s international border arbitration with neighboring Croatia.
Erjavec told reporters he had offered to resign late on Thursday after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague decided to continue its work on the border issue even though Croatia had withdrawn from the arbitration process last year.
“I offered my resignation to the prime minister as it is for him to decide what is my role in this (arbitration) procedure and whether he still trusts me,” Erjavec said.
He said “personal responsibility” prevented him from resigning last year, when the leak of a tape purportedly showing a Slovenian judge on the arbitration panel exchanging confidential information with the Ljubljana government led Croatia to withdraw from the arbitration.
Twenty-five years after the break-up of federal Yugoslavia, the two states still disagree over their land and sea border. Slovenia is demanding access to international waters in the northern Adriatic, where its territory is squeezed to a coastal sliver between Croatia and Italy.
A spokesman said Prime Minister Miro Cerar was likely to comment on Erjavec’s resignation offer on Saturday.
“It would be a great surprise if Cerar accepts the resignation of Erjavec although it remains unclear why Erjavec offered to resign at this moment,” said Borut Hocevar, an analyst of daily Finance.
Erjavec said his center-left party Desus would remain in the coalition government even if the prime minister accepts his resignation.
In January, Cerar rejected a resignation offer by Finance Minister Dusan Mramor over extra income he had received in the past when working at a university.
News of Erjavec’s resignation offer came on the same day that the head of Slovenian Sovereign Holding, Marko Jazbec, quit over a power struggle at Slovenia’s only port, Luka Koper.
Finance’s Hocevar said that privatization in Slovenia would continue at a very slow pace in spite of Jazbec’s resignation.
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)